23 December 2016

Tips On How To Pass AAPC CPC (Certified Professional Coder) Exam

medical coding books

Medical coding is a fast growing career here in United Arab Emirates. Since I encounter medical codes in my job, I decided to take the AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) CPC certification to fully understand the coding guidelines.

It is also stated in the DHA Medical CodingGuidelines that
  • There are many bodies that certify for professional coders; most relevant to Dubai’s selected coding sets are AHIMA and AAPC. Providers and payers are highly encouraged to seek certified professional coders or certify their existing staff in this regard to assure quality data coding. 
I know that there are a lot of tips all over the internet about AAPC CPC medical coding exam but I would like to share some based on my experience when I took the AAPC CPC exam in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Tip #1
Refresh yourself with the anatomy, physiology and medical terms (specially for those with no medical background).

Tip #2
Enroll in an accredited AAPC CPC medical coding training center or AAPC CPC medical coding online course

Please check AAPC website for the online course.

The AAPC CPC medical coder courses here in Dubai, UAE usually offer 2 packages (depending on the best offer/promo you can get)

The average cost/price for a  Medical Coder Course/Training in Dubai:

Package 1 is usually around 2,750 to 3,500 AED
medical coder course + photocopied books

Package 2 - 5,000 to 6,500 AED 
medical coder course + 3 original books + AAPC 1 year membership + AAPC CPC exam

Make sure to get a schedule that you know you can attend ALL the classes because skipping one means not being able to learn a few chapters. Make sure to clear all doubts on every chapter before proceeding to the next.

Always bring your medical coding books (CPT 4, ICD 10-CM or HCPCS Level II) during classes. This will help you familiarize with your books which relates to the next tip...

Tip #3
Be familiar with your books (CPT 4, ICD 10-CM and HCPCS Level II) 

Read and understand ALL the medical coding guidelines, correct use of modifiers and coding tips. 

Tab your books - The CPT book comes with pre-made tabs that you can stick. However, I found it helpful to put additional tabs in all 3 books.

Highlight notes in parenthesis below the codes - Make sure to read these notes before choosing the code. They will guide you the correct use of the codes.

example: code 55300 - I used a neon yellow highlighter to mark the parenthetical notes below the code description.

Bubble - This is a method I learned when I read online tips which I found very helpful to determine which codes were under the parent code. Search You Tube videos on how to do this.

example: I used a pencil to make a rectangle box around codes 25260, 25263 and 25265. This means that code 25260 is the parent code.

25260 Repair, tendon or muscle, flexor, forearm and/or wrist; primary, single, each tendon or muscle

25263 Repair, tendon or muscle, flexor, forearm and/or wrist; secondary, single, each tendon or muscle

25265 Repair, tendon or muscle, flexor, forearm and/or wrist; secondary, with free graft (includes obtaining graft), each tendon or muscle

Underline Patiently mark with colored pens some words that seem to be helpful to differentiate one code from the other. When you are under time pressure, you might tend to overlook some words or letter/s.

example - for codes 25607 and 25608 - I used red ink to underline the similarities and blue ink to underline the difference.

Make time to read your books (CPT 4, ICD 10-CM or HCPCS Level II)
I had a month to review for the exams so I had to rush to the library after work to read, highlight, tab, bubble and underline all the 3 books. I suggest reviewing in Dubai Children's Library in Al Mankhool if you live in the area. They have free wifi in case you need to research something. Free water too ;) It is open during weekdays until 8PM. On Fridays, I study in a coffee shop near our home.

Tip #4
Answer Practice Exams
Just make sure that you practice the recent ones because the older exams have ICD 9 or some codes are already deleted. You can purchase online exams and study guide from the AAPC website. Don't forget to read the rationale of the answers.

Tip #5
Mobile Apps
I downloaded some mobile apps with practice exams, anatomy review and medical terms. Use this instead of surfing social media accounts when you have spare time.

Tip #6
Prepare the Following
#2 pencils
Bottled Water 
Print out of your emailed exam booking and member ID
3 coding books  (CPT®, ICD-10-CM, HCPCS Level II)
Emirates id/ passport
Earplugs (optional)

I should have brought earplugs! This is one thing that I was not able to do because I never thought that anybody could make so much noise. Unfortunately the man seated beside me and the one behind me were mumbling out loud while reading the questionnaire. It can be sort of annoying, especially if you really want to concentrate on what you are reading. Good thing I was seated in the front most and every time the proctor heard them, she asked them to tone down their voices. Well, I guess if you will wear them during the exam, just be mindful when the proctor announces how many more minutes left which you might not hear.

Wear a sweat shirt or jacket just in case the temperature in the testing room gets a bit cold for you.

Tip #7
Know the testing location of your medical coding exam in Abu Dhabi or if possible, stay near the testing location the day before the exam. (You can try looking at Groupon or Cobone for cheap hotel offers.)

I live in Dubai and my testing location was Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi. I wanted to make sure that I won't be late, so I checked-in a hotel near the Hilton.

Don't review the day before your medical coding exam. Take this day to relax. Have a good night's sleep and eat your breakfast on the exam day. Remember the exam is 5 hours and 40 minutes. You wouldn't want to spend time eating during the exams.

Tip #8
Exam Day
Arrive on Time
It is extremely important that you arrive at least 30 mins before your medical coding exam time in Abu Dhabi. We were allowed to enter the exam area at 8:30AM and medical coding exam started at exactly 9am.

The things in tips #8 are the only things you are allowed to bring to your table.  

Phones must be switched off.

Do not talk to anybody once you get seated. 

The proctor will give clear instructions. Just follow them. Raise your hand if have a question.

Bathroom breaks are allowed. I actually took only 1 as time is very important.

Some prefer to be seated near the exit so if they take the bathroom breaks, they'll be nearer but I preferred to sit in the frontmost as so not to get disturbed by those people taking breaks.

Tip #9
Medical Coding Exam 

Scan the exam. Quickly choose the area which you think you'll get most answers correctly. I started with the anatomy, HCPCS, coding guidelines, ICD 10 and medical terms. 

The exam is multiple choice.

Make use of the anatomy drawings, medical info and alphabetical index in your coding books to get some clues for medical terms you are not familiar with.

Make sure to shade the correct number on your answer sheet.

Imagine with 5 hours and 40 minutes, I still wasn't able to finish the exam so I had to guess some questions that I skipped. It's better than leaving them blank. At least there's a 25% on getting the answer correctly.

Exam Results

Expect the result in your AAPC online account around 5-10 business days after the exams. Passing score is 70%. 

If you check your AAPC online account after your exam, the following will be the status until you see the final result.

In Transit to AAPC

Mine was on "In Transit to AAPC" for 10 days(including weekends). Then on the 11th day it changed to received, then grading, then PASS :)


Kindly note that these strategies worked for me. As you study, you can also figure out your own strategy that works best for you.

Don't hesitate to ask if there's anything I can be of help with your review. (Please don't ask about the contents of my exam) 

Well that's it! Good luck! You too can pass the AAPC exam on your first take!

For complete information: visit Certified Professional Coder (AAPC website)

here are some info from their website

The CPC Exam
  • 150 multiple choice questions (proctored)
  • 5 hours and 40 minutes to finish the exam
  • One free retake
  • Open code book (manuals)
The CPC examination consists of questions regarding the correct application of ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes used for billing professional medical services to insurance companies. Examinees must also demonstrate knowledge on proper modifier use, coding guidelines and regulatory rules.

Approved Manuals for Use During Examination

  • CPT® Books (AMA standard or professional edition ONLY). No other publisher is allowed.
  • Your choice of ICD-10-CM (Exams will test ICD-10 effective January 1, 2016).
  • Your choice of HCPCS Level II.

Test Tips 

  • It is all about the guidelines: In preparation for the exam, review all coding guidelines and understand how they are applied. This pertains to all codebooks (CPT®, ICD-10-CM, HCPCS Level II). Coding conventions and guidelines for ICD-10-CM are found in the front of the codebook. CPTT® guidelines are found in the introductory sections and throughout the codebook in selected subsections.
  • Get your materials organized: Well-marked codebooks can be extremely helpful during the exam. Because coding guidelines contain instructions for what can be reported and what cannot be reported, use different colored highlighters to quickly distinguish between the two.
  • Sequencing matters: Follow sequencing rules in coding guidelines and coding conventions. Example: A urine culture confirms the patient’s diagnosis of a UTI caused by E coli. The correct codes and sequence are: 599.0, 041.49. There is a note instructing you to use an additional code to identify the organism, such as Escherichia coli (E.coli). If there are code options with the same codes in a different sequence, pay close attention to the coding conventions and guidelines to guide you in the right selection.
  • Parenthetical notes provide valuable information: Paying close attention to information in the CPT® parenthetical notes prevents you from making coding errors. Example: There is a parenthetical note following code 10030 which states “Do not report 10030 in conjunction with 75989, 76942, 77002, 77003, 77012, 77021. This alerts the coder that imaging guidance cannot be reported with the surgical procedure code.
  • Know your modifiers: Review the proper use for each modifier. Understand when each should be appended. Example: Modifier 26 is appended to codes with a professional and technical component to indicate the provider you are coding for only performed the professional component. If the question/scenario indicates the procedure is performed in the hospital setting, the coder will be alerted that modifier 26 should be appended to radiology procedures and medicine procedures that apply. If the code description includes professional component (eg 93010), you would not append modifier 26.

Preparing For Your Exam
  • Electronic devices with an on/off switch (cell phones, smart phones, tablets, etc.) are not allowed into the examination room. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disqualification of your exam.
  • Verify the start time and examination address at least two days prior to your test date. If you are unfamiliar with the exam site, consider mapping your driving directions in advance from maps.google.com or www.mapquest.com. Factor potential construction, traffic, or possible inclement weather during your commute and arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Confirm what exam materials are allowed during the examination. Gather these items several days prior to the examination (Photo ID, Member ID, plenty of #2 pencils, and an eraser along with the appropriate coding manuals.) Please view our exam instructions to see what manuals are acceptable.
  • Most examinees have found that they perform better after a good night of sleep. We believe a late evening study session the night before your exam is not very useful.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast (nothing too heavy) and bring light snacks and water to keep you energized during the exam. Peppermint or lemon candy generally keeps you alert.
  • If you are sensitive to noise, bring earplugs to eliminate distractions during the exam.
  • Layer your clothing in case the room temperature fluctuates.
  • Successful examinees have well-thumbed code books. Become familiar with all parts of your CPT, ICD-10 and HCPCS code books. Learn how to quickly locate the codes, guidelines, tables, and instructions within them. This may be the most important tip we can give you.
What To Do During The Test
  • Listen carefully while the proctor reads the instructions. Ask questions before the examination begins if you do not understand the instructions given.
  • Be especially careful about marking your answer sheet. Be sure to correctly fill in your selected bubble on the test grid. Exams are machine graded. To ensure an accurate score, bubbles must be filled out as shown on the example on your test grid.
  • Scan the entire test when you are instructed to begin. Answer the easiest, shortest questions first – this gives you the experience of succeeding and stimulates associations.
  • Remember to pace yourself. You have an average of 2 minutes and 15 seconds to answer each question. Stay relaxed and do not panic. You will be able to finish.
  • Read each question carefully. Note such words in the question as "not, except, most, least and greatest." These words are often crucial in determining the correct answer. However, there are no "trick" questions on the exam, so don't worry about hidden words or meanings.
  • Answer every question. If you do not know the right answer, eliminate as many wrong answers as possible, then select among the remaining answers. If you don't have a clue – guess. A guess is better than a blank response.
  • If you finish with some additional time, use that time to go back and review any questions you were not fully sure you had the correct answer. Use the code books again to confirm.


  1. thx for tips i take medical coding test in abu dhabi next month

  2. I did medical coder training here in dubai but did not pass the aapc cpc exam last october in abu dhabi. I feel i wasted my money in the medical coding course because i dont understand my teacher. many of my classmates did not pass the medical coding exam also. i will try to do all your tips on my next coding exam take 2 in february


  4. i join medical coding course in dubai 8 hr training every friday. Medical coding not easy, i finish medical coder trining and have certificate but not understand anything. Maybe online course better. i will write exam in aapc cpc medical coder exam in abu dhabi on january. The price of package very expensive. I need new books 2017

  5. Kabayan first time ko mag take ng medical coding CPC exam sa Abu Dhabi early next year. Meron na ako schedule sa AAPC. Nag take din po ako ng medical coder training dito sa Abu Dhabi pero pakiramdam ko hindi pa ako ready mag take ng CPC exam. Hindi po kasi maayos ang pagtuturo sa amin ng medical coding course at kapag binabasa ko ang mga guidelines hindi ko po maintindihan yung iba kahit paulit ulit ko basahin.

  6. Where did U take your medical coding course in Dubai? Did U have online medical coder training? Was the CPC medical coder exam in Abu Dhabi really hard? Can I take the medical coding training and CPC medical coder exam in 4 months? Do U think that is ok? I want to plan and take my medical coder course in Dubai and also CPC medical coding exam in Abu Dhabi. Pls answer and thank you in advance.

  7. Mahirap po ba ang aapc cpc medical coding exam? Sa abu dhabi lang po ba pwede mag medical coder exam? Di po ba pwede mag coding exam sa dubai?

  8. what medical coder course package in dubai did you get and how much? can i attend the medical coding class on weekends only because i have work. give me contact number of you medical coding school in dubai

  9. Thx for the tips for medical coding. How many hours the medical coder course in dubai? I want take coder exam in abu dhabi but there is cpc exam in dubai also? The 3 books are very big. I think very long time need in medical coder training.

  10. Ilan oras in total ang medical coder course dito sa dubai? Kailangan pa ba talaga sa abu dhabi mag coder exam kahit dito sa dubai naman nag medical coding training?

  11. How much cost if i buy medical coding books only? Is that ok if i no take medical coding training course? Too much expensive training in dibai and abu dhabi.

  12. Kabayan susundin ko ang mga tips mo sa aapc cpc examination. Salamat sa pag post mo ng mga tips tungkol sa medical coding exam day sa abu dhabi dahil kinakabahan na talaga ako kasi malapit na ang exam at hindi pa ako masyado naka review. Yung mga ibang tips na nababasa ko kasi mga general at hindi para sa mga mag take ng exam dito sa uae. At least alam ko kahit paano kung ano ang expect ko cpc exam day. Balita ko madami ang bumabagsak. Pwede ko ba malaman kung saan ka nag medical coding school? Yung sa akin kasi feeling ko hindi sifficient yung turo nila kaya parang nahihirapan ako sa mga cpc practice questions.Sana makausap kita ng personal dahil gusto kita ask ng personal sa experience mo. Nandito pa ba ikaw sa uae? Dubai o abu dhabi? Salamat at ako ay umaasa na makilala ka sa personal.

  13. Will you lend me your 3 medical coding books you use in your Aapc Cpc coding exam in Abudhabi and you study guide. I only here in Dubai. Thx

  14. Will you give me your medical coding books and study guide. I will return after i write medical coder exam in abu dhabi. Or if i can rent or your books for sale.

  15. Ako din po interested sa medical coding dito sa dubai. Nagtanong tanong na din ako ng price sa course pero ang mahal dito sa dubai pero nag tanong din ako sa pinas at mahal din at matagal yung pasok kung uuwi ako doon mag aral. Gusto ko sana habang nagwork ako dito sa dubai mag take ako medical coding course. Madami ako kilala na mag enrol pero di pumasa dahil di daw magaling mga nagtuturo. Pls po kung pwede po kayo maka usap para maka hingi po ng advise dahal malaking pera po ang ilalabas para sa training. Saan po maganda mag enrol ng coding sa online po ba o dito sa dubai at kung anong medinal coding school ang maganda. Mahalaga po sa akin na maka hingi ng advise para po makapagdesisyon po. Katulad po nung nag comment sa taas sana po masagot ninyo mga tanong namin.

  16. Hi guys! Sorry for the late reply. Anyway, I'll try to answer as much questions about medical coding course here in Dubai and the AAPC CPC medicall coding exam in Abu Dhabi.

    How the medical coding books look like? - please visit youtube and search for AAPC CPC medical coding tutorials

    Is the medical coder exam in Abu Dhabi hard? - it depends on how prepared you are before taking the medical coder exam. I think you can determine this when you try to answer sample questions.

    Is the AAPC CPC medical coder exam available in Dubai? -as of now only in Abu Dhabi

    Is the medical coding course here Dubai worth the money? -this is actually subjective, for me it's worth it because I passed the exam on my first take but most of those in my class who didn't make it said it's a waste of money.

    I hope to meet you in person; I want to talk to you for advise - please post your questions here and I'll try my best to reply frequently ;)

    Which medical coding school in Dubai? -I cannot answer which is the best because I only have an experience with the medical coding training center I went to so I cannot compare one from the other

    How much are the medical coder books? - I got mine with the training package, check AAPC website for promotions

    How much is the salary for AAPC CPC certified coders without experience here in Dubai - I'm sorry but I don't have any idea

    Can I borrow your medical coding books? - I use them at work.

    I cannot understand some of the medical coding guidelines - which one in particular?

    Are your medical coder books for rent or for sale? - No

    How long is the medical coder training in Dubai? - depends on which schedue you take, if you take daily classes you'll finish the course faster

    Can I finish the mrdical coding course in Dubai in 4 months? - Yes

    Online medical coding couse or medical coder training in Dubai? - Again I cannot answer because I haven't tried online medical coder training

    What medical coder package did you take? - package that includes original books, training, AAPC CPC annual membership, AAPC CPC medical coder exam

    Are you still here in UAE? Abu Dhabi or Dubai? - Yes. Dubai

    I hope I didn't miss any questions. Goodluck!

  17. hi kabayan, nurse ako dito sa abu dhabi,
    may mga questions lang ako, please paki-answer. need ko ng help kung itutuloy ko ang pagtake ng exam.

    1.sa tingin mo ba worth it ang pagkuha ng training for career change.

    2.Indemand ba ito sa Uae? after mo ba makapasa marameng pedeng applyan?

    3.malaki ba ang salary compare sa RN?

    salamat kabayan!

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  19. Thank you sa info, very informative. May I ask also which training center did you attend?

    1. Hi Giselle. I took the course at Al Talouk in Deira. I suggest that you attend Dr. Elizabeth's classes.

    2. Thank you so much Ms. Caleen! :) Will do, planning to take one this feb. God bless you!

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